New year in the pandemic

Madison County Schools

Madison County K-12 Schools will be in session with in-person instruction by the end of August.

Madison County Public Health Board voted to allow schools to set their own rules of operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as Centers of Disease Control and Prevention regulations and statewide mandates are followed. Schools are working with the Madison County Sanitarian Office in their finalized plans.

Schools will have some students who opt for remote learning this semester. Reasons for students not returning to the brick and mortar of the school system vary. Some families have members who are at a high risk of developing a serious case of the novel virus and cannot risk a child bringing it back from school. Some parents refused to send their children to school if face coverings are not required for everyone, other parents refused in person instruction if everyone has to wear a face covering.

The governor’s office implemented mandatory face coverings in all K-12 schools in counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases. As Madison County hovers around the threshold of the statewide mask mandate, schools may alternate K-12 mask protocols.

Schools are prioritizing student safety but are met with conflicting priorities of student safety. COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus that if not mitigated, can spread in an in-person instruction environment. Efforts to mitigate the virus spreading within schools do not guarantee success.

But according to the CDC, the potential harm to students’ social, emotional and behavioral health because of closed schools are well-known and significant. Closed schools also tend to disadvantage low-income children, minority children and children with disabilities because they are less likely to have access to private instruction and care, counseling and special education services. All of Madison County’s K-12 schools reported a percentage of their students falling behind in their education due to the sudden switch to remote learning.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practice, the CDC are all recommending in-person school for these kids,” Madison Valley Medical Center Family Medicine Doctor Maura Davenport said. “These kids are not doing well not in the classroom. I’m seeing depression, anxiety, suicidal attempts, anorexia, bulimia, obesity – everything under the sun has increased in our pediatrics population and I think a lot of that is they don’t have the structure and support that we give them here in school.”

Madison County’s schools will open its doors for the 2020 fall semester with the legal obligation to mitigate the virus in its facilities. According to the CDC’s best available evidence, school-aged children are less likely to contract COVID-19 than adults. Low risk children who contact the virus are also less likely to suffer severe symptoms than adults. The CDC’s current data shows that student to teacher transmission of the virus has a low rate of transmission, especially when proper precautions are used.

Non-conclusive studies that the CDC referred to suggests COVID-19 does not readily spread in schools, when community transmission is low. The CDC also said that children may be the primary source of COVID-19 transmission within a family unit. But current data shows that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools or the community

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